Two legislators urged the leaders of the Lamu Port and Lamu Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor project to consider working with communities for the fruition of the Vision 2030 flagship project. Ms. Shakila Abdalla, Lamu East, and Mr. Abdikadir Omar, Balambala, were speaking yesterday at a forum organized by the Rift Valley Institute to discuss the opportunities and challenges of the LAPPSET project.
Ms. Abdalla decried the apparent disinterest by the project leadership to address concerns of the host communities. She cited lack of compensation of displaced families, and disengaging the local leadership in running the project as some of indicators of this ill-advised move by LAPPSET leadership.
“Construction of the Lamu Port is depriving the people of their fishing livelihoods,” she said, and continued, “The project does not provide an access route for Lamu East people to reach Lamu West.”
While acknowledging the project’s potential for developing Northern Kenya, Mr. Omar underscored the need for the management to ensure that the project does not stall. Failure to address the emergent issues and work closely with the host communities jeopardizes the project’s success, he cautioned.
“Devolve the projects to the people and start dialogue,” he urged.
Dr. Ekuro Aukot, a legal practitioner, echoed similar sentiments. Terming the move by the project leaders as defeatist, Aukot said that disengaging communities is against the Kenyan law. He singled out leadership and land tenure system as the greatest challenges bedeviling the LAPPSET project.
LAPPSET project, Dr. Aukot said, could succeed in creating poverty amongst the people. By failing to address land ownership, LAPPSET leadership is setting the precedents for conflicts and stalling of the project, he explained.
LAPPSET is one of the projects touted to develop Kenya by 2030. The project aims at opening up the hitherto virgin Northern Kenya and linking the country to the land locked Sudan and Ethiopia. According to Dr. Jonathan Lodompui, Assistant Director, Vision 2030 Delivery Secretariat, LAPPSET is the most ambitious of the 124 Vision 2030 flagship projects.
“This project offers solutions to marginalized communities,” said Lodompui, before enlisting the components of the project to include Lamu Port, oil refinery, petro-chemical industries, a 1700-kilometer road stretch, standard gauge railway line, water and crude oil pipeline, and resort cities. “With its completion, it will take three days on a road trip from Lamu to Duala,” he offered, referring to a port town in West Africa.
Lodompui owned that it is natural for a project of the LAPPSET magnitude to face challenges, and stir emotions, before clarifying that the leadership is committed any emergent concerns. But is this lack of proactivity that concerned those in attendance.
Calling upon LAPPSET management to rethink its strategy, Mr. Omar said that dialogue and consultations with the host communities help the team in planning. Mr. Laban Omolo, Director of Natural Resources at National Lands Commission cautioned that sidelining the host communities could deny LAPPSET the much-needed funding.
Speaking in the same forum, LAPPSET CEO, Mr. Sylvester Kasuku dismissed claims that the project is detached from the host communities. LAPPSET is designed with a human face, he said. To underline its commitment to the community, LAPPSET has an ambitious capacity development aspect that benefits farmers, traders and the youth where the projects snakes through, Kasuku added.
Kasuku urged for patience, saying that plans are underway to compensate those affected by the 200-metre wide LAPPSET corridor. According to Kasuku, the LAPPSET project team is careful on preserving the historical appeal of Lamu islands, something that he said is informing the development of an organized system for people to access the islands. He reiterated that LAPPSET’s development potential goes beyond the project’s corridor.
“Upon its completion, LAPPSET will have a 3% impact on the GDP,” he explained, pointing to a PowerPoint screen indicating that the Lamu Port alone will handle 1780,000 containers annually. Asked whether the LAPPSET project could be a white elephant, cliché for a costly and useless project, Kasuku said lightly that Kenya is not home to that breed of elephants.
“I would rather you address the emerging issues now than when a bulldozer and a camel are in front of each other,” offered Omar.